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Find a Cause Worth Running For. (Or Biking. Or Walking. Whatever Works.)

by Katie Wudel

May 13, 2015

We’re teaming up with our friends at Sambazon for 100 days of little ways to change our world. Follow along for the next 100 days of action (and giveaways) on Instagram @Sambazon and at www.sambazon.com/100. And don’t forget to tell us @GOOD about how you’re changing your world with the hashtag #100Startswith1.

#100StartsWith1

Champion: Gene Gurkoff

Action: Choose a charity and let it cash in on your exercise routine. 

Gene Gurkoff, founder of Charity Miles, last month with Hank Kirschner, 79, who recently walked two challenging races using an all-terrain walker in memory of his wife. Image via Charity Miles.

“I was never a tech person, I was a finance law person,” says Gene Gurkoff. “But I was always a runner, too.” When he was in law school, Gurkoff spent a lot of time running for charity, raising money for Parkinson’s Disease in honor of his grandfather. His family and friends would sponsor him, but Gurkoff wanted to make a bigger difference by garning support from companies. 

“But they would never do it because I’m not a celebrity. So I figured if I got enough people together, then collectively, we would have the clout of a celebrity.” 

After some trial and error, Gene followed through on his idea by developing an app called Charity Miles. It's free for iPhone and Android and lets you earn corporate sponsorships for charity while walking, running, or biking. Running and biking will earn your charity 25 cents per mile; biking gets them a dime.

Two Charity Miles running across the United States just met up in New Mexico this week. One of them is doing the whole run barefoot.

Many Charity Miles members are passionate about making a difference through fitness. Gurkoff says two members have already run across the United States. Two more are doing it right now. One, Jack Fussell, is running east to west for Alzheimers. The other, Barefoot Jake Brown, is running west to east. Hank Kirshner, a 79-year-old with a walker, recently did the Disney World Half Marathon on a Saturday and the Disney World Full Marathon on a Sunday, back to back, in honor of his wife. Another member wrote Gurkoff about her young son, who chooses a different charity every day. Once he decided to use Charity Miles on a three-mile hike—the farthest he’d ever walked—but when they got back to the car, they hadn’t quite reached his goal. So he ran around the car a few times to meet it.

@tulamonstah's daily Charity Miles tweet.

The app isn’t only for fitness maniacs, though. Two of Gurkoff’s favorite members are twin sisters from Massachusetts, who use Charity Miles while walking their dogs, who have their own Twitter handles, @tulamonstah and @norwoodsworld. Every morning, the “dogs” tweet their progress, along with the Boston weather report.

“Every mile or half mile matters,” says Gurkoff. “Anyone can do this.”

Toolkit

Gurkoff wants to challenge you to do a very simple thing: “Walk with a purpose.” In other words, find a cause you care about and get moving to support it in whatever way makes sense for you. 

1. Select the cause that’s right for you. Gurkoff frequently supports the Michael J. Fox Foundation in honor of his grandfather, though when he’s on a particularly beautiful hike, he likes to support environmental causes like The Nature Conservancy. If you know every step you take will make a difference for a cause you care about, it’ll motivate you to get off your butt.

2. Find the right way to fund it. That could mean participating in charity races near you, downloading Charity Miles, starting a crowdfunding campaign, or even pooling your own races. If the method helps you cross your own personal finish line, that’s what matters. 

3. Tell the world. “Nobody walks for charity in secret,” says Gurkoff. “It’s something you do to make a statement and raise awareness.” So when you’re proud of meeting your goals and helping a cause you care about, be sure to use the hashtag #100StartsWith1.

@acrosstheland has run more than 1,000 miles on behalf of the Alzheimers Association as part of his journey across the United States. Here he is making it to Arkansas. Image via Charity Miles.

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Find a Cause Worth Running For. (Or Biking. Or Walking. Whatever Works.)